Reviews: Hyperspace High by Zac Harrison
Hyperspace High: Crash Landing by Zac Harrison (Stone Arch Books, July 2013)
Note: An advanced reader copy was provided by the publisher.
My first thought when I saw this title was “Hey! I think I watched a cartoon series like this back in the 80s . . .” I admit I didn’t hold out a lot of hope for it. But, given the subject matter is science fiction and it looked like a quick read, I figured I’d give it a go.
John Riley is a bright, but otherwise pretty normal Earth kid who is supposed to be off to a new boarding school. But someone has made a mistake, and he’s picked up by the intergalactic shuttle that’s headed to Hyperspace High, the most well known school in the galaxy. It’s not the sort of place known for letting backwater primitives like humans on campus. But since there’s no way to fix the mix up or get John home before the school term is up, the school principal decides to give him a chance as a student rather than being expelled out the airlock (gulp!). John quickly makes friends, and enemies and gets caught up in trying to prove humans aren’t as primitive as some aliens seem to think. When his first school field trip puts John and all his schoolmates at risk, will he survive to go back home again?
Here we have the school story format with the new kid, only played out in a science fictional environment. The story is pretty formulaic, and the science fiction more along the lines of space opera. For all that it was still an energetic little read that managed to keep me interested in the characters and rooting for them. Given the number of series books and young reader books I’ve come across that are painful to read, this is a cut above that. John is likable enough in a bland way, but he’s our cipher character–giving kids a window into this new school. The protagonist is one likely to attract both male and female readers, and with so many of these recent school series coming onto the shelves, having one that is appealing to boys is a definite plus.
The science fiction elements in this story are wild and wacky, with AI computers, precog principals, and tentacled villains but this remains a school story first and science fiction adventure second. What’s central to the plot is the interactions of students and their day to day classes. The alien teens act much like earthly teens–even if they look liked winged demons, silver haired elven girls, or giant insects. Like Harry Potter, John is going to face unrelenting (and very obvious) enemies as well as duplicitous teachers. It’s how he helps others, pulls the team together and solves problems that will ultimately matter. Readers will cheer John on as he perseveres in his studies and aces his piloting classes. They’ll wish they’d get picked up to go to Hyperspace High with him. At the end of the day, this may not be a contest winner or wind up on a lot of “best of” reading lists, but it’s fun. And really, don’t we want reading to be fun?
This is a great series to entice reluctant readers. Despite the fact that John is off to Hyperspace High, most of the characters feel firmly middle school in maturity, and the this is likely to appeal to readers in third grade and up. Readers ready for more sophisticated fare may find the story too simplistic and the plotting too thin to sustain them, but for those readers just ready to cut their eyeteeth on something science fiction flavored, this is an ideal place to start.
Clearly the first in a multi-book series. I hope the author can maintain the sense of adventure and fun throughout.
Publisher: Stone Arch Books
Expected Publication Date: July 2013
Recommended for grades 3 and up.
Posted on August 25, 2013, in General Posts, Reviews and tagged Aliens, Books, Children's Books, Children's Literature, MG Books, Middle-Grade Fiction, Reading, reviews, School Stories, Science Fiction, series, SF. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.